ABC’s Galavant Is a Rollicking, Musical Good Time
Love Alan Menken’s Disney soundtracks? Enjoy fantasy that plays with its own self-referential cliches? Have a need to stare at beautiful people in medieval clothing? And do you only have thirty minutes a week to devote to television? Galavant is there, square-jawed and with perfect hair, as ready to laugh at itself as it is to play with genre conventions.
Meet Galavant, our protagonist, a knight down on his luck; Madelena, a queen who chose wealth and power over true love; Isabella, a princess ready to kick some ass and take back her kingdom; Richard, an evil king genuinely distressed by his growing understanding of evil; Sidney, a squire struggling to graduate into a knight; and Gareth, an evil sidekick with more feelings than he knows what to do with. More information would be spoiling the show, but it suffices to say: Where they start out is not exactly where they end up. For a sitcom with only eighteen episodes, an awful lot of character development happens.
Galavant is a bit of a niche show, the one and only musical fantasy sitcom. Basically, it would be really easy to screw up, between costuming, the music, the actors, and finding a network. But every song that comes out of it is magically singable, including its catchy season 1 theme to a Pirates of Penzance-style sneaking song, Weird Al and his singing monk(ee)s, and a full-on rap battle in season 2.
The show’s aesthetic is fantasy, but it has no hesitation in grounding itself in human frailties and disgustingness: Galavant’s breath stinks, Princess Isabella snores, life sucks for peasants, and people die frequently. Three of its romance songs are about the anticlimax of romance: “Maybe You’re Not the Worst Thing Ever.” which ends with one couple hating each other and the other couple moving a little closer; “World’s Best Kiss,” which admits that their kiss wasn’t quite world-shaking; and “Maybe You Won’t Die Alone,” which encourages the romantic partners to see the best in each other on a first date so that they don’t have to, you guessed it, die alone.
At the same time, it full-heartedly flings itself into the ridiculousness of a world where everyone is apparently trained in musical theater from the time they were born and everyone is aware of the fourth wall. This creates an effect of simultaneously going back to its roots of medieval history and embracing its existing present — engaging in reality and fantasy at the same time in the best traditions of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and A Knight’s Tale.
Additionally, it tries for diversity. Isabella is an ambiguously brown princess whose cousin’s castle looks suspiciously like Masada. Sidney is black and Jewish, and an episode spent in his home village makes his cultural traditions very clearly important to his character. In the second season, the Enchanted Forest is a gay bar, and Isabella has a distant bisexual cousin for an episode, if the show neglects adding any meaningful LGBT representation to its main cast.
Galavant is a genuinely fun show, and it’s sure to continue being entertaining for however long it runs — which I hope is a long while. It takes the best parts of Glee, Stardust, and Game of Thrones, mashing them up into a hearty and sustaining stew of television fare — which, quite frankly, is something everyone could do with a bit more of in their lives, even if it only shows up for four weeks a year.